Coffee wars brewing

Coffee wars are brewing in Great Yarmouth after seafront traders were sent a blunt warning of what might happen if they boycott pavement cafes for a second season.

Coffee wars are brewing in Great Yarmouth after seafront traders were sent a blunt warning of what might happen if they boycott pavement cafes for a second season.

The arrival of continental-style tables and chairs was a key part of the borough council's vision for the new-look seafront, but last summer - in the first year of the scheme - not a single café or restaurant applied for a pavement café licence in protest at charges 10 times higher than Blackpool's and even more than prime London sites such as Covent Garden.

A meeting of the council's pavement café committee of councillors and officers has now agreed to stick with the same controversial prices this year - £50 per square metre for prime areas of the seafront and Regent Road - but to increase last summer's first-season discount from 30pc to 60pc to more realistically take into account the expense of buying tables and chairs.

However, Graham Plant, cabinet member for tourism, last night warned that if existing cafes and restaurants did not take up the offer, they would consider offering licences to independent traders to run pavement cafes from coffee trailers - and they had already had one inquiry from a well-known brand.

He said: “We are trying to work with the people of Yarmouth but if businesses on the seafront are showing no interest - and that is the impression I am getting unless they get it for free - then we will seriously look at offering licences to independent operators.”

Mr Plant said although they were determined to get pavement cafes up and running this season it would be irresponsible of the council not to make a proper charge for a prime site and then expect the rate payer to pay for policing the scheme.

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“We have calculated the charge as the minimum required to cover the cost of policing the scheme this year, and based on a 20-week season that would only work out at £6.50 a week for a table and four chairs,” he said. For a typical eight-table pavement cafe, over 8sq m, it would work out at only £400 a year.

Demetris Mavroudis, who runs Olympia Cafeteria, in Marine Parade, Yarmouth, said England's unpredictable weather made pavement cafes an economic non-starter and he knew of no one on the seafront willing to pay the council's prices.

He reacted with indignation to the idea of independent pavement cafés being licensed and accused the council of “bringing people in to hinder local businesses”. “How far can you saturate the area with eating establishment,” he questioned?

A spokesman for neighbouring outlet Tasty Fish and Chips agreed it would be wrong to allow independent pavement cafes when existing businesses were already suffering.

And Dave Moralee, owner of the Sunshine Café, predicted “major protests” if pavement cafes were given the go-ahead outside existing businesses, but approved of the idea for the beach side of Marine Parade.

Leading Yarmouth businessman Peter Jay said he hoped the new discount would be enough to encourage traders to start up pavement cafes but he still harboured doubts.

“The seafront's new look won't be complete until we get pavement cafes and there needs to be 2,000 seats on the seafront,” he said.